‘Fleetlights’ offers an intriguing new proof of concept – drones that act as mobile street lights, lighting your way as you travel through the dark, whether on foot, by bike or by car.
A new project called ‘Fleetlights’ hints at a potential new direction for consumer drone use – setting them up as roving, mobile streetlights, to light your way through the dark.
The pitch is that you can order the drones to your GPS location via an app, just like a taxi, and they will then track you, whether you’re travelling by foot, by bike or by car. The coordinated drone unit can then either follow you, or light up specific points on your path.
While the demo shots look stunning, a healthy dose of skepticism might be sensible at this point. If you’re walking alone through a dark street, do you really want a spotlight pointed at you? The functionality might actually be more promising for motorists and cyclists, lighting them up and illuminating their way. And at a 15 m/s top speed (approximately 34mph) the drones may just about be able to keep up with you. The limitations, though, are a 1.5 mile range – meaning the device would have to move autonomously between the user and the base station – and the maximum of 30 minutes allowed by the battery for the drone to get to you, light your way and return to base. While this could be a fantastic application for poorly lit rural roads, economies of scale would also mean that already relatively well lit urban areas would be far easier to service for any provider (think Amazon’s fixed wing delivery units).
A further health check – while the project includes tech experts such as Michael Oborne, it’s being led by insurance company Direct Line, so may well be more of a proof of concept (and marketing stunt) than a real proposal. And, of course, having remotely operated or autonomous drones, operating beyond line of sight, generally wouldn’t be legal right now.
Speaking about the project, futurologist Dr Ian Pearson said, “This ground-breaking prototype technology could serve a really positive purpose in the future – providing a safer, more efficient way to light both individuals and organisations. From local councils, search & rescue teams and the emergency services right through to local cycling and running clubs, the usages are endless and I can see this being commonplace by 2021.”
It’s apparently only the first of a number of projects from Direct Line that will illustrate how “everyday objects [can] impact the lives of people in the UK.” We’ll look forward to seeing what they have next!
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